(Sacramento, CA) Assemblymembers Miguel Santiago and Marc Steinorth, in conjunction with Senator Steve Glazer, Assemblymember Bill Quirk, and 13 other co-authors announce introduction of new legislation aimed at protecting Good Samaritans in California.
On May 24, the Majority Whip of the State Assembly, Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), and Assemblymember Marc Steinorth (R-Rancho Cucamonga), in conjunction with Senator Steve Glazer (D-Orinda) and Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), announced the introduction of Assembly Bill 797, the California Right to Rescue Act. The bill, co-sponsored by Los Angeles County District Attorney, Jackie Lacey, and The Humane Society of the United States, protects citizens from liability for necessary actions taken in good faith to rescue an animal from a hot car.
Last week, in anticipation of the measure being introduced, Assembly Democrats and Republicans both participated in the Hot Car Challenge to see how long they could withstand the interior of a parked, closed car as temperatures rose as an example of the peril animals face during warm months. Every year, thousands of animals succumb to heatstroke in hot, unattended vehicles. The facts are staggering:
- Even on an 80° day, the temperature in a parked car can reach 120° in just 10 minutes.
- On a 90° day, the interior temperature of a vehicle can rise as high as 150°.
As the legislators learned, these temperatures are unbearable for any person, but especially for animals who do not have sweat glands like humans.
Many concerned citizens come across animals who are left in vehicles during warm months and in need of rescue, but aren’t sure what to do and fear being sued and/or arrested if they take unauthorized steps to free an animal. AB 797 allows a Good Samaritan to break into a vehicle to rescue an animal if specific conditions are met he/she follows various steps prior to entering a vehicle. Those steps include:
- Check that the car cannot be opened.
- The animal must be suffering harm or in imminent danger.
- Contact law enforcement.
- Remain with animal in safe location until law enforcement arrives.
- Don’t use more force than necessary to rescue the animal.
According to AB 797, if these steps are followed, Good Samaritans would then be protected from criminal prosecution of liability for civil damages.
California law already makes it illegal to leave an animal unattended in a parked vehicle. State law has also long protected Good Samaritans who rescue children that have been left in vehicles. AB 797 follows legislation recently passed in other states (Florida, Michigan, Ohio*, Tennessee, and Wisconsin) by extending these provisions to people who rescue animals in a similar fashion.
(* = Legislation pending approval by governor.)
“I am proud to be working on this bipartisan effort to end inhumane animal deaths,” stated Assemblymember Santiago. “After participating in the Hot Car Challenge, myself, I cannot even fathom an animal’s ability to withstand those extreme temperatures. AB 797 allows Good Samaritans to safely and carefully rescue animals trapped in hot cars — an issue that is especially poignant as we head into summer in California.”
“The Right to Rescue Act will save lives,” said Assemblymember Marc Steinorth. “We all know how hot our cars get sitting in the heat, but so many people don’t recognize that leaving your dog in the car for even a few minutes in these conditions can be fatal. More than anything, we hope that AB 797 will raise awareness of this danger so pet owners remember to leave their dogs at home.”
“Our strongest hope is that this legislation will raise awareness about the dangers of leaving animals unattended in hot vehicles. We know people don’t mean to put their animals in jeopardy, but they often don’t understand just how quickly the situation becomes dangerous and even deadly,” said Jennifer Fearing, who represents The Humane Society of the United States, the San Francisco SPCA and Best Friends Animal Society. “We are grateful that such a strong bi-partisan contingent of state lawmakers see fit to propose protections for Good Samaritans and to provide specific steps needed to assure those protections.”
“Every year, hundreds of animals suffer, and many die, in Los Angeles County from being left in hot vehicles. By the time a citizen spots an animal trapped in a hot vehicle the situation is often dire, and requires immediate action,” said Dan Felizzatto, Deputy District Attorney with Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s office. “Because a call of this nature may not be a priority for law enforcement, peace officers may not respond in time. AB 797 provides a legal framework for a Good Samaritan to follow in order to remove an animal from a hot vehicle, without fear of legal repercussions. AB 797 will save lives.”
AB 1674 is slated to be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 14th.
A fact sheet, including a comprehensive list of co-authors can be found here: AB 797 Fact Sheet.
Videos of the Legislators’ Hot Car Challenges can be seen here: www.mydogiscool.com/AB797.
Here is a look at the Bill:
LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST
(1)Existing law limits the civil liability of a person who in good faith, and not for compensation, renders emergency medical or nonmedical care at the scene of an emergency, as specified.
This bill would prohibit any civil liability or cause of action against a person for damage to a motor vehicle, if the damage was caused while the person was rescuing or providing care to a minor who, or animal that, was located inside the motor vehicle and the person had taken specific steps, including, among others, determining the motor vehicle was locked or there was no reasonable method for the minor or animal to exit the motor vehicle without assistance, and to the extent practicable, contacted a law enforcement agency, fire department, or the emergency 911 telephone number before damaging the motor vehicle.
(2)This bill would declare that it is to take effect immediately as an urgency statute.
Vote: TWO_THIRDSMAJORITY Appropriation: NO Fiscal Committee: NO Local Program: NO
Section 43.100 is added to the Civil Code, to read:
(a) There shall not be any civil liability on the part of, and no cause of action shall accrue against, a person, including a peace officer, fire fighter, humane officer, animal control officer, or other emergency responder, for property damage or trespass to a motor vehicle, if the damage was caused while the person was rescuing an animal pursuant to subdivision (b) or (d) of Section 597.7 of the Penal Code.
Section 597.7 of the Penal Code is amended to read:
(a) No A person shall not leave or confine an animal in any unattended motor vehicle under conditions that endanger the health or well-being of an animal due to heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, or lack of food or water, or other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death to the animal.
SECTION 1.Section 43.100 is added to the Civil Code, to read:
(a)There shall not be any civil liability on the part of, and no cause of action shall accrue against, a person for damage to a motor vehicle, if the damage was caused while the person was rescuing or providing care to a minor who, or animal that, was located inside the motor vehicle and the person had done all of the following:
(1)Reasonably believed that the health or well-being of the minor or animal was endangered due to heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, or other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death to the minor or animal.
(2)Determined the motor vehicle was locked or there was no reasonable method for the minor or animal to exit the motor vehicle without assistance.
(3)Contacted, to the extent practicable, a law enforcement agency, fire department, or the emergency 911 telephone number before damaging the motor vehicle.
(4)Took necessary action, in good faith, to enter the motor vehicle for the purpose of rescuing or providing care to the minor or animal.
(5)Remained with the minor or animal in a safe location, either inside or outside, but reasonably close to, the motor vehicle, to the extent practicable, until a law enforcement officer, fire department personnel, or other emergency responder arrived.
(b)The immunity for civil liability for damage to a motor vehicle provided by this section shall not affect a person’s civil liability or immunity from civil liability for rendering aid to a minor or animal in addition to the aid described by this section.
This act is an urgency statute necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety within the meaning of Article IV of the Constitution and shall go into immediate effect. The facts constituting the necessity are:
In order to limit civil liability against a person who rescues or provides care for a minor or animal reasonably at risk of being endangered inside a motor vehicle during the hottest months of the year, it is necessary for this act to take effect immediately.